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“The Surprise of Humility” Mary the Mother of our Lord, August 15th, 2010 at St. Paul’s in Vallejo, CA

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Mary, the Mother of our Lord

Isaiah 61:7-11 Psalm 34:1-9 Gal 4:4-7 Luke 1:46-55

The Surprise of Humility

It is so good to be able to serve you with the Word of God this morning, while Pastor Foltin is away. As it says in our Psalm, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” And remember that we don’t live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Deut 8:3). Because God’s Word is food indeed and when through it we experience God’s love, it tastes very good indeed. It’s delicious!

Today we celebrate Mary, the mother of our Lord. God chose her, a lowly young woman to bear God’s Son, the Holy One of Israel. So she exclaims, “Now all generations will call me blessed!” and today you and I see that she spoke truly. Her words came true. Because through Mary, a champion of faith, like Father Abraham, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word here means the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Often we say: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit. “Flesh” in Hebrew refers to a human being. “All flesh is grass!” means we people wither and die like flowers in the field. But the word of the Lord remains forever (Isaiah 40:6,8). Thus Mary was chosen to give birth to the Christ Child, Jesus.

We call the Word becoming flesh the Incarnation and it means that God condescended to us and wished to become a human being and dwell among us. Imagine that!? God wanted to be one of us! That’s divine evangelism! God is present among us. Don’t you want others to meet Christ too?

The Incarnation is what we celebrate at Christmas but of course, we can’t keep it in an unopened box there, like a gift we never opened. It is either equal to or even more important than the Creation of the heavens and the earth.

Let me tell two stories: a farmer came into his barn and noticed that some swallows had flown in and gotten trapped, not being able to find a way out. When he came in they became even more frightened and flew against the windows hurting themselves. They could not find the door. He said to himself, “If only I could become a swallow and fly among them. I could tell them that they had nothing to fear and I could lead them to the door and they could fly away and be saved.

That is how the Blessed Father must have felt and thought about our lost and fallen race. So God sent the Word, the Son, to become a human being and dwell among us to show us the way. That’s the Good News.

Recently a bird was trapped in our garage. When I came in in the morning, I heard the chirping, which sounded like, “Help!” It must have been trapped in there all night. Whenever I tried to catch it, it flew away. I opened a window. It stayed above it. I got a net. That really scared it and it dropped into the dark cobwebs and dust behind the washer and drier. I opened the big front doors, took a flashlight, and it actually followed the beam of light and came out from behind the machines. When I tried to grab it again, it flew out of my hand. I noticed that it was really a baby bird and that’s why it didn’t know for nothing. It just expected help, but wouldn’t take it. It scuttled out the automatic doors and sat on the back tire of our car, completely exhausted. There it finally let me catch it. Don’t we act that way too? We surrender to God only as a last resort, when we are too exhausted to make a get-a-way. I brought it to the back yard and put it high on a fence, where it still chirped for help. I figured I would get it some water to drink. When I came out, I backed off. There were birds flying to it and putting food in its mouth!

God in Christ had to come down to us the same way. We cry for help, and we also know for nothing about this life and how to live it, just like that baby bird. Then Christ comes to us, puts food in our mouths, strengthens us with God’s Word, shows us the way of life, gives us a garment of grace, a robe of righteousness, and a suit of salvation.

The Incarnation is the story of God’s bending down to us, the story of God’s humility. That is why God chose Mary and no queen or princess or celebrity. God chose a humble virgin in order to become a human being and dwell amongst us. The Good News is that God became a human being, that is, the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, for whom this whole universe is too small, became one of us. God may have just spoken the Word or clapped his hands with a Big Bang and this whole universe exploded into existence. That Holy One now became really small, a human embryo, then a little babe in the womb of Mother Mary. She was chosen to bear God. In Greek, she is called the Theotokos, the God-bearer. She carried the Son of God to term and laid him in the manger, the humble food trough out of which the animals usually ate. So the Maker of the Universe, the Holy One, who formed this planet and created life on it, now became a little baby just to be with us. And we are now the holy people called to witness to God’s holy name, Jesus Christ. We are Christians and we believe that.

God is teaching us humility so that we can be of help. Luther writes:

God’s eyes peer only into the depths, not into the heights…. “For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly and the haughty he perceives from far away.” Similarly in Psalm 113:5f, “Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?” Because God is most high with nothing above, God cannot look above or alongside, and since nothing is God’s equal, God must necessarily look within or below and the farther you are below, the better God sees you.

The eyes of the world on the other hand, look only above and want to rise above themselves (From the Magnificat, Luther’s Spirituality, page 95).

We keep looking up and trying to be on top. But God keeps looking down, keeps seeing the lowly, the downtrodden, the oppressed. God wanted to be a human being and with that to teach us humility, to teach us to identify with and care for the lowly; to see the invisible people that the world refuses to see. But we can’t get our eyes off celebrities, millionaires, billionaires, and the super-heroes, who are larger than life.

What happens is that we pass God by in the night. God is coming down, but we are bent on going up. God comes to the ones we disregard, the ones we refuse to see and won’t identify with, and then before you know it, our lives start becoming empty and meaningless in the imagination of our hearts, a place where we have lost real contact and our relationships with each other.

Once when I was the pastor of a little church in Coney Island, New York, a woman in furs came in, looked at our people, our motley group, and exclaimed: “This is low-life!” and promptly walked out. We might be low-life in the eyes of the world, but we are high-life in the sight of God, and that is what ultimately counts.

Once I had to do a funeral in Berlin for a woman who had been in one of the many senior centers or nursing homes of our parish. She had a funny name: Frieda Frischbutter. That would be Frieda Freshbutter in English. She never had visitors, had no family, completely forgotten by the world. She had become senile and had even forgotten herself. She did not know who she was. When I tried to give her communion, she thought I was her doctor.

When she died, the funeral director told me I didn’t have to do a service, perhaps I should just say a little prayer over her grave. No one remembered her. Suddenly I realized what he was saying and I got women to come along from our women’s group and we did a full service around her grave and this poor woman who was completely forgotten, even by herself, was not forgotten by God. She was nobody and had nothing, but through her, God gave us the most precious gift on earth, an encounter with the Living God, whose presence we suddenly felt around her grave so powerfully, that we felt overwhelmed. God’s love flooded our hearts!

That is how God includes the very least of these, who have nothing, by giving himself, God’s self through them, which is more precious than money, possessions, or whatever, that the people who have something, could give.

So Mary too was a nobody, who even had to overcome the stigma of being pregnant out of wedlock before her marriage with Joseph could take place. Can’t you imagine the reaction of the people? “You’re pregnant by the Holy Spirit? Sure. Tell us another one!” But little John the Baptizer in Elizabeth’s womb jumped for joy, when Mary bearing the Christ child in her womb, came running to visit. Little John was already pointing to Christ from inside his mother’s womb!

Therefore let’s have faith and identify with the lowly maid, the servant of the Lord, who is called Mother Mary. Let our souls also magnify the Lord and let our spirits rejoice in God our Savior, too. That way we can also receive Christ in our hearts, the way she received him and gave birth to him, that holy birth which gives us his new birth as well. And God’s Son, the son of Mary, will also show us the way of life.

In the words of Galatians, we will become the adopted children of God, with Mary as our Mother, Jesus our brother, and with the Spirit of God’s Son in our hearts, we can call upon our Father in heaven, saying, “Daddy” or “Papa” or “Pop”. (Survey: who uses “Daddy” or “Papa” or “Pop”?) That’s the term of endearment Jesus wanted us to use calling upon the Blessed Father in heaven!

We might be lowly and humble, but surprise! Look at our inheritance! Mary’s Son, Jesus gives us all his possessions in heaven, we receive everything that God has as our inheritance, because that is the last will and testament of Jesus, who sealed his will with his blood on the cross.

The surprise is that down is up and up is down. So we look up and become radiant. O taste and see that the Lord is good. Let’s wrap ourselves in Mary’s faith and receive the robe of righteousness, the garment of grace, and the suit of salvation, a dress indellibly divine.

That’s the surprise of humility. What was considered our lowly human condition can be transfigured in the twinkling of an eye, into a wonderful world of heavenly relationships, because of Mother Mary’s Christ Child. Yes, through his birth this whole world will receive a new birth. This world becomes a miracle. Our ordinary lives become miracles and suddenly God’s will is done here on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

Pastor Peter Krey, Ph.D.

For the Children:

To a Little Bird

I found trapped in our Garage this morning:

(The Little Bird Heard the Word)

Little bird, little bird,

You fly and flutter,

Cry for help,

Bang into a shutter.

“Fear not!” little bird,

do you hear my word?

You flew inside

And though you’ve tried,

You can’t find your-way-back outside.

Little bird, I can’t tweet

And I can’t twitter,

But you’re so sweet

and your plight’s so bitter –

Because you’re a bird

and you can’t understand my word!

If only I could change my shape

and become a bird,

I would fly to you

chirping about rescue.

I’d show you the way

Out the door today

So you could fly away.

Then join your feathered throng

singing along

your happy, tree-top song

filled with words of love

all day long.

Peter Krey August 15, 2010


Written by peterkrey

August 16, 2010 at 3:19 am

Posted in Selected Sermons

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